Guest Review: A Royal Visit To Victory Street – Pam Howes

A Royal Visit to Victory Street

(The Bryant Sisters #5)

Pam Howes




From Amazon charts bestseller Pam Howes comes an emotional and uplifting saga about the power of family and a community trying to rebuild their lives after the terrible war that nearly destroyed everything…

1956, Liverpool. With the shadow of the war looming over them and bomb craters littering the surrounding streets, hope feels far away for the residents of Victory Street. When they learn that the Queen has chosen to visit them on a tour of Liverpool, the delighted neighbours bring back the wartime spirit. Can they possibly get the street ready in time?

Even a royal visit cannot take away Bella Harrison’s worries. Her son, fourteen-year-old Levi, has just told her he wants to move to America to join the rest of his father’s family. The news has so shocked Bella that she’s not sure she’ll be able to sing for the Queen, jeopardising all their plans for the big day.

Life has been hard for Levi, growing up as a mixed-race boy in Liverpool, but he’s the light of Bella’s life. The thought of losing him brings back the terrible memories of losing her father and sister during the war. If everyone pulls together make the Queen’s visit an unforgettable celebration, perhaps she can persuade Levi that Victory Street is where he belongs.

But when Levi receives heartbreaking news from America and his move becomes uncertain, Bella starts to wonder if all her efforts to keep him in Liverpool have been for the right reasons. Can Bella find it in herself to sing for the big celebration, and make the right choice for her beloved son?

A totally unputdownable, heart-wrenching historical novel, packed with family secrets, perfect for fans of Dilly Court, Diney Costeloe and Nancy Revell.

Brenda’s View:
It was 1956 in Liverpool when Mary learned the plans of Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, when they were going to visit Victory Street, during their tour of Liverpool. Mary took charge of the organisation to have Victory Street tidied up, making it fit for the royal visit. Lizzie, Mary’s small granddaughter, was going to present a bouquet of flowers to the Queen, and rehearsal for her was going well. Lizzie was deaf but she and all those around her knew signing, so she communicated well.

Bella and the other two Bryant Sisters would perform, as they had during the war, as well as her eldest son, Levi, and his two friends. Levi was keen to become a singer and his small band was having success with the concerts they joined in. The admiration Levi held for the new bands from the US as well as locally, with John Lennon doing well saw him anxious not to go on with schooling. He wanted to work to earn money and make his dreams come true. Would they manage to get Victory Street ready in the short time they had? Would their plans be successful?

A Royal Visit to Victory Street is the 5th in The Bryant Sisters series by Pam Howes (and perfect timing after current events) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was wonderful to catch up with Bella and the girls, learn more about Levi, Earl, Bobby and their integrated family, as well as the strong, determined and stalwart Mary, matriarch of the family. I love this author’s work and I have no hesitation in highly recommending A Royal Visit to Victory Street (along with the series).

Note: The blurb is misleading, as from the second paragraph down, it’s pretty much all wrong.

With thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

A 5 star read!

#FridayFreebie : Finding Eadie – Caroline Beecham

Finding Eadie

Caroline Beecham

Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9781760529642



London 1943: War and dwindling resources are taking their toll on the staff of Partridge Press. The pressure is on to create new books to distract readers from the grim realities of the war, but Partridge’s rising star, Alice Cotton, leaves abruptly and cannot be found.

Alice’s secret absence is to birth her child, and although her baby’s father remains unnamed, Alice’s mother promises to help her raise her tiny granddaughter, Eadie. Instead, she takes a shocking action.

Theo Bloom is employed by the American office of Partridge. When he is tasked with helping the British publisher overcome their challenges, Theo has his own trials to face before he can return to New York to marry his fiancee.

Inspired by real events during the Second World War, Finding Eadie is a story about the triumph of three friendships bound by hope, love, secrets and the belief that books have the power to change lives.

‘Fans of Natasha Lester and Kate Morton will very much enjoy this new release and the dual time zones mean the book will appeal to a broader audience.’ Debbishdotcom

‘Extremely engaging . . . reads like the work of a veteran storyteller.’



Thanks to the generous people at Allen & Unwin Australia I have 3 copies of Finding Eadie to giveaway to residents of Australia. It’s easy to enter – simply answer this question in the comments before 10/7/020: name the publishing company Alice worded for.  Winners will be randomly selected from all entries.  Good luck and thanks for entering.



**check your emails – winners have been notified.**

Post Script: Path to the Night Sea – Alicia Gilmore

Path to the Sea

Path to the Night Sea

Alicia Gilmore

Regal House Publishing LLC

ISBN: 9780998839844



What happens while we choose not to see? When we ignore the paper on the windows, the absence of a child, the menace of a neighbour? What happens behind the locked doors, in the overgrown yard, during the passing of the years? What happens in the silence, in the seclusion, in the darkness and the night? What happened to Ellie?



My View:

What a read! Alicia Gilmore is a writer to watch out for, I cannot wait to see what inspires her next novel.


This book has:

√  Drama and is a dark, brooding and poignant narrative.

√ Perfect pacing, you will devour this in one sitting.

√ The dialogue is authentic and chilling. The voices/the characters pitch perfect.

√ The locations leap off the page.

√ The protagonist’ situation will break your heart, yet there is no melodrama here. This work of fiction screams to me – this could happen, this has happened and recent new feeds sadly support my theory.

√ The writing is extraordinarily good – and this is a debut novel? WOW!

√ An element of optimism; tragic yet the light shines in.


Alicia Gilmore I congratulate you! And look forward to your next book.


Happy book publishing day.

Post Script: The Seance Society – Michael Nethercott

One for the lovers of Agatha Christie.

The Seance Society

Michael Nethercott

St. Martin’s Press

Minotaur Books




It’s 1956, and Lee Plunkett has taken over the family business as a private investigator despite his reluctance to follow in his father’s footsteps. When murder intrudes on a group of ghost seekers, Lee is asked to solve the case by a cop on the verge of retirement. At the urging of his perpetual fiancée Audrey, Lee enlists the help of Mr. O’Nelligan, a scholarly Irishman with a keen eye for solving mysteries. The duo is drawn into a murder investigation involving the “Spectricator,” a machine designed to communicate with the dead. Soon, Plunkett and O’Nelligan are knee-deep in a suspect pool that includes a surly medium, a former speakeasy queen, a mysterious Spanish widow, and a whole slew of eccentric servants. Engaging, charming, and smart, The Séance Society by Michael Nethercott is a fresh take on the traditional mystery genre for readers who love original characters, witty dialogue, and a great whodunit.

My View:

This is an interesting story, written in the style of the times of the event (the 1950’s); it is genteel, polite, charming and all sleuthing is done without the benefits and gore of modern forensics.  To me this writer is paying homage to the late Agatha Christie in his writing style and plot devices; the narrative is a classic “whodunit”, those involved with the murdered man are interrogated, notes are made, the scene of the crime is reviewed and the reader is given clues as to who may have or may not have dunit. Part way through the novel one of the original suspects dies because they have somehow stumbled across the identity of the real murderer or a clue that points to his name (or at least the murderer believes this to be so and thus must silence this person) and finally the entire cast are called together at the scene of the crime, facts of the crime are explained, secrets revealed and the murderer is finally announced!  These devices are typical Christie’s style though this novel is set in America, and focuses on the American middle class, not the British.

I particularly liked the character of Mr O’Nelligan, the investigator’s associate; he is intelligent, gentle, quotes classic poetry and shows great common sense, wit and humour. He is very endearing and empathetic; his story is interesting and sad. Lee Plunkett is feisty and likable, together O’Nelligan and Plunkett make a great team.

Setting this tale in a haunted house is clever, it allows the writer to involve a variety of minor characters; various seers, psychics and other eccentrics aplenty, add to this an interesting story, with a few twists and turns and a solid likable detective team and you have a very decent read that will certainly entertain you. 

Post Script: The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Richard Flanagan

Random House Australia Pty Ltd

Vintage Australia

ISBN: 9781741666700



A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.


August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever. This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.


My View:

This is destined to be an award winner!

Brutal, passionate, inspiring, remarkable, emotional and complex; a love story, a story of relationships, a story of war, The Narrow Road to the Deep North is all these things and more. Flanagan’s writing is poetic, is humbling, is revealing and is at times horrifyingly realistic, cruel and brutal and overwhelming and I have never felt so many contradicting emotions reading a book!

This man can write! At first I was lulled into a false sense of security thinking I knew where this narrative was heading; a coming of age tale, a story full of youthfulness, excitement and passions on fire, a young man discovering his potential, striving for betterment, an old man reflecting on a life that was, but these were just elements of this complex story.  The introduction lulled me into a sense of false comfort that was quickly shattered with the brutal truths of a Japanese Prisoner of War camp charged with building the Thai- Burma railway in impossible, inhumane conditions (my response fuelled by the many black and white images burnt into my retina from documentaries and still photographs of WW2) I almost could not bear to read any further, the images were too real.

This novel asked many questions – about the brutality inflicted during war and who carries the responsibility for war crimes, it discusses the meanings of culture, of reverence to ones political and sovereign leader, of who should pay the ultimate price for sins inflicted in that leaders name (and maybe didn’t), of when punishment becomes a sadistic pleasure and why/how onlookers allow these terrible acts to happen or joins in…The novel offers rational meaning for such behaviour that effectively discredits such behaviour…

But this is not just a story of war – it is also a story of love and of the meaning we place on relationships/family and love.  “There grew between him and Ella a conspiracy of experience, as if the raising of children, the industry of supporting each other in ways practical and tender, and the sum of years and then decades of private conversations and small intimacies – the odour of each other on waking; the trembling sound of each other’s breathing when a child is unwell……as if all of this were somehow more binding, more important and more undeniable than love, whatever love is. For he was bound to Ella. And yet it all created in Dorrigo Evans the most complete and unassailable loneliness, so loud a solitude that he sought to crack its ringing silence again and again with yet another woman…  ” (p.373-374), such beautifully evocative writing amid such tales of horror and amazing ability to survive you cannot help but be moved.

And then we have the beautiful poems scattered amongst the prose.

Surrender to the influence and emotions of this book. Read this book, and then re read this book!

Post Script: The Bat – Mary Roberts Rinehart

The Bat

Mary Roberts Rinehart

Open Road Integrated Media Road

ISBN: 9781480436480



A supervillain stalks the countryside, and it will take a spinster to bring him to heel

For months, the city has lived in fear of the Bat. A master criminal hindered by neither scruple nor fear, he has stolen over one million dollars and left at least six men dead. The police are helpless, the newspapers know nothing—even the key figures of the city’s underworld have no clue as to the identity of the Bat. He is a living embodiment of death itself, and he is coming to the countryside.

There, he will encounter the only person who can stop him: adventurous sixty-five-year-old spinster Cornelia Van Gorder. Last in a long line of New York society royalty, Cornelia has found old age to be a bore, and is hungry for a bit of adventure. She’s going to find it—in a lonely old country house where every shadow could be the Bat.

My View:

A classic melodrama; I was so surprised to read that this was originally published in the 1920’s, to me it reads like a deliberately written piece of historical crime fiction – with all the mores, stereotypes, language and manners relevant to the time (but of course this is how it reads as it was  actually written back in the 1920’s!) I loved its grace; the manners and the formal language and style of this book. Ms Rinehart creates a wonderful setting of time and place mixed with humour, a little slapstick comedy and classic stereotypes.

As I read I could picture this story produced on stage; the moments of humour, the twists and turns and red herrings thrown at the reader, the stereotypical characters; the rich spinster, the Irish maid, the desperate young lovers…the lights in the spooky houses cutting out in the storm, the mysterious internal phone calls, the lights in the windows, , the door knob rattling, the face at the window…the shadow of the bat. I wanted to call “ohhh, ahhh” in mock fear as I read this clever fun romp (and then I discovered the providence of this book- its run as a successful Broadway play, and as the basis of several movies).  Why I am surprised at this I don’t know – it is written so well, almost a script. Today this reads as a great piece of historical crime fiction.

Post Script: Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

Burial Rites

A Novel

Hannah Kent


Little, Brown and Company

ISBN: 9780316243919



A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

My View:

Hannah Kent has written a moving and powerful debut historical book of fiction which is loosely based on the true story of the last woman executed in Iceland in 1829. Before we begin this book we all know how it will end. There are no surprises here. What is remarkable is the way that Kent tells this story: it is simply stated, it is well researched, it sets scene and place perfectly – Iceland in the 1800’s is a disparate place for the poor and those in servitude as compared to those who are of the Church or the wealthy, times are even harder for women without  means, and as Agnes came to find, even harder for those who have been judged wanting or judged for trying to rise beyond their place in society.

Kent has written a brilliant feminist work – her words are subtle yet her message is clear; Agnes was punished because she could read, because she had a mind of her own, because she wanted to be the master of her own destiny, because she dared to try and break free of the traditions that held her in poverty and dependence.

Kent writes with a powerfully emotive voice; her power is in her quietness, in her subdued style that perfectly describes the isolation and bleakness of the landscape that reflects the bleakness in Agnes’s heart.  This is a style that allows the reader to form their own opinions about the justification of this end of life sentence.  I sit here having just finished reading the last few pages of this novel trying hard to swallow the tears that want to pour from my eyes. I weep for Agnes, for the unfairness of her world, for her lack of power, for her death.

Blog Tour: Poisoned Waters – Ermisenda Alvarez


About Ermisenda Alvarez:

Along with numerous solo works, Ermisenda began writing on role play sites at fourteen and completed her first crime novel at fifteen. Driven by the desire to evoke the kaleidoscope of emotions her favorite authors are able to, she kept writing. Growing up bilingual amongst her Spanish family in Australia, she found a love and deep appreciation for language and the power it wielded.

Now she’s working on a joint project with coauthor Eliabeth Hawthorne. Ermisenda has written Leocardo’s perspective of Blind Sight #1, the first book in an urban fantasy series that changes depending on whose perspective you’re reading. So the question is, “whose eyes will you read through?”


Bloody mistakes, ugly scars, and beautiful lies. A tale of corruption.

Helen Gardener is murdered on a trans-Atlantic cruise. The Diamond Royale sails from Southampton to New York with her murderer aboard. Set in the 1950s, Poisoned Waters follows the stories of seven unfortunate characters and how they are affected by her death. Was it merely an accident? Mr Phillips, the owner of the ship, and sponsor of the cruise, rules with an iron fist, in search of something or someone.

Lies spiral out of control as the suspects try to survive the final days on board. Conflicted by their sense of morals, greed, and lust, they realise what kind of people they really are. Who will rise? Who will fall? Who was Helen’s murderer?

My View:
It is not doubt that Ermisenda Alvarez is a passionate writer – the lush descriptions in her work Poisoned Waters  attest to this fact. The premise of a murder on board a cruise ship, locked down, isolated…the killer among them, provides a great story line however I did not feel that the required level of  tension was achieved to fully realise the potential of this narrative.  I think this novel admirably reflects the attitudes towards women at the time –  women as possessions,  as adornments,  with no rights, the receivers of silent, unnoticed domestic abuse… totally dependent on men to meet their needs.

I think that Ms Alvarez shows her potential as an upcoming writer in this book,  however this book was a little too busy and the characters hostile and unpleasant for my liking and thus I did not really connect with or care for any of the characters.  Some beautifully written passages, elements of visual excellence and a plot that has  all the elements for a great mystery. This is a writer who will blossom with expert guidance.

Post Script: My Notorious Life by Madame X – Kate Manning

A fantastic read!

My Notorious Life: A Novel

My Notorious Life by Madame X

Kate Manning

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

ISBN: 9781408835654


Description (provided by Goodreads):

Based on a true story from the scandalized headlines of Victorian New York City, My Notorious Life is a portrait of Axie Muldoon, the impoverished daughter of Irish Immigrants who becomes an enormously successful—and controversial—midwife. Separated from her siblings, apprenticed to a doctor, Axie parlays the sale of a few bottles of “lunar tonic for relief of female complaint” into a thriving practice as a female physician known as “Madame X.” But as she rises from the gutter to the glitter of Fifth Avenue, Axie discovers that the right way is not always the way of the law, and that you should never trust a man who says, “trust me.” But what if that man is an irresistible risk-taker with a poetical soul? Soon, Axie’s choices put her on a collision course with one of the most zealous characters of her era: Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, and it will take all of her power and wealth to outwit him and save herself and her family from ruin.

A love story, a family saga, and a vivid rendering of a historical time and heated political climate, My Notorious Life is the tale of one woman making her indomitable way in a difficult world. Axie Muldoon is a heroine for the ages



My View:

How to begin – this book is extraordinary and exquisite and I loved every word on every page!  This book has much to offer- it is a historical feminist work of fiction “based partly on the life and death of Ann Trow Lohman (1811-79) also known as Madame Restell who practiced midwifery in New York for almost forty year” (Author’s note). It is a love story, it is a story of overcoming adversity where the heroine actually wins, and it is a story of courage, devotion, family and humanity at work. The early years of Madame X’s life echo of life of so many women at the time; fighting to survive, fighting to feed their families, each day a hardship, each day a battle against poverty, hunger, disease and child birth death.  For many women pregnancy was a real health threat, so many died in childbirth or shortly after.

But enough of the feminist ideology and analysis – that could go on and on and this is a book review not an essay on feminism but I do hope this book becomes part of high school and university curriculum – and has so much to offer to men and women.

I loved the well developed characters in this book- Madame X/Axie/Ann is a powerful and heroic young woman. She is feisty, says her mind, she is intelligent, she is a mother, a daughter, a wife and she is a business woman, she is a health worker.  She speaks with attitude, honesty and she has an authentic voice. I love her frailties, they make her credible – she is plagued by jealously, she has a quick temper, she speaks her mind. She has self doubts, she rises to her husband’s baits and taunts – she is manipulated by his words and takes risks she might not have taken by herself. She grows.

The minor characters are also quite likeable and fallible – all seeking to be loved and cherished and seeking the right to determine their own future, to rise above poverty. Charlie is a likeable rogue and is quite enlightened for the times. Greta is vulnerable, loyal and demonstrates we are all just one mistake or bad judgement away from despair.

Manning paints from an incredibly rich palette of colours – her settings, the clothes, the buildings, the language of the time, her characters, all come alive on the page. When you read this novel you do not merely observe; you walk this life side by side with Madame X.

The plot is fast paced and exciting. This historical work of fiction also provides intrigue, romance and mystery. This book has something for everyone. I cannot recommend this book more highly. This is one of the best reads of 2013.